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8 times Obama said there would be no ground troops or no combat mission in Syria

The White House is announcing Friday that a small number of special forces will be put on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria -- a new strategy that pretty clearly contradicts past Obama and administration statements that U.S. forces would not be put on the ground there. As the United States got drawn into the fight against the Islamic State earlier this year, the White House repeatedly emphasized this point -- a move to assure the nation that we wouldn't be drawn into a new war like Iraq or Afghanistan.

Asked Friday about the incongruence of Obama's past comments and putting these boots on the ground, White House press secretary Josh Earnest repeatedly emphasized that these are not combat troops -- a distinction that many disagree with, we would note -- and suggested promises to not put boots on the ground were being taken "out of context."

“You’ve read one quote that, to be fair, is out of context," he said when NBC's Kristen Welker pointed to Obama saying in 2013 there would be no U.S. boots on the ground.

But Obama has actually said no boots on the ground repeatedly in 2013, before adjusting his language slightly -- but notably -- in 2014.

Here's a recap of how he -- and one of his top foreign policy aides -- have talked about it, in 10 quotes.

Aug. 20, 2013

"Again, I repeat: We’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach."

-Obama at a press conference at the White House with Baltic leaders on

Aug. 30, 2013

"And in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground; that would involve a long-term campaign."

-Obama in remarks with the presidents of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia at the White House

Aug. 31, 2013

"Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground."

-Obama in a statement on Syria at the White House

Sept. 7, 2013

"What we’re talking about is not an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground."

-Obama in his weekly address

Sept. 9, 2013

"This will not be Iraq or Afghanistan. There will be no American boots on the ground — period."

-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice

Sept. 10, 2013

"I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria."

-Obama in a televised national address from the White House

More recently, in 2014, Obama talked less about "no boots on the ground" and more about those hypothetical troops not having a "combat" mission or be actually fighting — a distinction the White House keyed on Friday.

Sept. 5, 2014

"With respect to the situation on the ground in Syria, we will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of Syria."

-Obama in remarks at a NATO conference

Sept. 10, 2014

"I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil."

-Obama in his plan to destroy the Islamic State

Sept. 19, 2014

"The president has ruled out the option of deploying American boots on the ground in Iraq and in Syria in a combat role."

-Earnest in a press briefing

Sept. 20, 2014

"I won’t commit our troops to fighting another ground war in Iraq, or in Syria."

-Obama in his weekly address


Obama sending troops, boots on the ground, to Syria

U.S. to Deploy Special Operations Forces in Syria: Official

The White House will announce Friday that a small number of U.S. special operations forces will be sent into Syria, according to a senior U.S. official.

The senior U.S. official said that the forces will be stationed in northern Syria and work alongside groups with a proven track record of fighting ISIS. The move will be described as a "shift" but not a "change" in U.S. strategy against ISIS, the official added.

The special operations forces could work with Kurdish and allied actors who have come together under the umbrella of the "Syrian Democratic Forces," according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public.


Another unfortunate 'told you so': U.S. to Begin 'Direct Action on the Ground' in Iraq, Syria

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday that the U.S. will openly begin "direct action on the ground" against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee, Carter said "we won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL...or conducting such mission directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground."

* * *

This may mean some American soldiers "will be in harm's way, no question about it," Carter said last week.

After months of denying that U.S. troops would be in any combat role in Iraq, Carter late last week in a response to a question posed by NBC News, also acknowledged that the situation U.S. soldiers found themselves in during the raid in Hawija was combat.

"This is combat and things are complicated," Carter said.


Russian Missiles Aimed at Syria Crashed in Iran, U.S. Officials Say

Cruise missiles fired by Russia from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria crashed in a rural area of Iran, senior United States officials said on Thursday.

It was unclear exactly where in Iran the missiles had landed, or whether there were any casualties. The officials said the flight path of the Russian cruise missiles would have taken them across northern sections of Iran and Iraq on the way to Syria. But not all of them made it there, one official said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military intelligence.

News of the crashes, which were reported by CNN, came as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter sharply criticized what he called Russia’s “unprofessional” conduct in its incursion into Syria. Speaking at a NATO news conference in Brussels, Mr. Carter said that Moscow had fired the barrage of cruise missiles with no advance notice.


If Obama is truly sorry for bombing MSF hospital, killing 22, he'd call an independent investigation

If Obama was genuine in his apology and want to find out what happened, he would join MSF in calling for an independent investigation.


Doctors Without Borders airstrike: US alters story for fourth time in four days (admits war crime)

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.

Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins Sans Frontičres (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistan had made an “admission of a war crime”.

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.

“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” Campbell told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday morning.

The airstrike on the hospital is among the worst and most visible cases of civilian deaths caused by US forces during the 14-year Afghanistan war that Barack Obama has declared all but over. It killed 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, who had sought medical treatment after the Taliban overran Kunduz last weekend. Three children died in the airstrike that came in multiple waves and burned patients alive in their beds.

On Tuesday, MSF denounced Campbell’s press conference as an attempt to shift blame to the Afghans.

“The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” said its director general, Christopher Stokes.

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